After a 1908 earthquake in Messina, the displaced were moved into temporary shacks. Thousands still live in squalor, but the pandemic has pushed Rome to take action at last.

MESSINA, Italy — The little girl climbed over the metal roofs of the shacks, gave chase to a rat as big as a rabbit, then stopped to look with trepidation at the sky.

“I think it’s going to rain,” she said.

Like her father, grandfather and great-grandfather before her, the girl, Aurora, 8, grew up in the slums of the Sicilian city of Messina. And, like them, she knows that rain is bad news at home.

Water leaks through their asbestos-coated roofs, permeates their walls and floods their street. To keep the children dry, adults sometimes have to carry them on their heads.

But more than a century later, about 6,500 Italians still live in makeshift hovels scattered around Messina, which is wedged between pine and eucalyptus forests and the narrow straits separating Sicily from the Italian mainland, reports the New York Times.

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